[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]
Stop laughing. I learned this from no less an authority than The New Yorker magazine. The weekly “Talk of the Town” section is composed of a handful of short pieces, and in every issue for the past year or so, at least one of these has been devoted to extolling the manifold virtues of Barack Obama. In the April 13 issue, we indeed learn that the president is actually propounding classical conservative principles as he extends the federal tentacles into an ever-larger portion of the American economy. Writer George Packer explains:
In his budget message to Congress, Obama invoked the value of fairness, but his budget proposals don’t create government programs—such as guaranteed-income measures or large numbers of relief jobs—that would establish equality from the top down. Instead, Obama seems to recognize that nothing has shredded the civic fabric in recent years more than the harsh inequalities of finance capitalism and the market ideology of a generation of American politics. This is not the rigid mentality of an engineer of human souls; it’s the attitude of a community organizer.
It’s also a pretty good description of what used to pass for conservatism—a sense that social relations and institutions are fragile things, and that, while government can’t create wealth or impose equality, at moments like this it has to establish a new equilibrium between individuals and huge economic forces, so that society doesn’t crumble. But modern conservatism has grown into exactly the opposite of its origins, in Burke’s respect for tradition and Madison’s promotion of countervailing checks on concentrations of power. Instead, like any revolutionary creed, it is abstract, hard-edged, and indifferent to experience and existing conditions.
So you see, Edmund Burke and James Madison, far from rolling over in their respective graves at the invocation of their names in such a fashion, would actually endorse Mr. Obama’s economic policies. All of you out there who call yourselves conservatives, all you rubes out there in the vast, howling wilderness that lies between the Hudson River and Beverly Hills, well, you’re just wrong. But there is hope for you, if you will but seek the wisdom contained within the pages of The New Yorker. Read and learn, peasants, read and learn.